Two Great Houses from America’s Gilded Age

New York

New York – Christie’s is pleased to present A Taste for Luxury: Two Great Houses from America’s Gilded Age on June 21. The private collection includes furniture, tapestries, old master paintings and drawings, silver and porcelain from two exquisite residences: The Henry Cook mansion at 973 Fifth Avenue, designed by McKim, Mead and White; and the country estate of Blairsden in Peapack, New Jersey by Carrère and Hastings. The interiors of both residences are miraculously still intact and remain elegant reminders of the early 20th century and of the great families and fortunes - as well as the great architects - that built them.  Comprised of over 270 lots, this sale is expected to realize in excess of $3.5 million and is the perfect opportunity for collectors at all levels to participate in America’s Gilded Age.

Just steps away from Museum Mile, 973 Fifth Avenue is located in one of the most glamorous and sought-after neighborhoods in New York City and the house truly has a history to match.  In the early twentieth century, the entire block upon which 973 Fifth Avenue sits was owned by speculator Henry Cook.  After selling all the other properties on the block, Cook hired renowned architect Stanford White, of McKim, Mead & White, to design himself a house on the last remaining plot.  973 Fifth was later purchased by Payne and Helen Whitney, the owners of 972 Fifth Avenue (also designed by Stanford White), and they were able to enjoy both 972 and 973 Fifth Avenue as a single residence until 1949.

The interiors of 973 Fifth Avenue are in remarkable condition, with period rooms having maintained their original functions despite the ever-changing architectural milieu of New York.  The dining room on the piano nobile and the Louis VXI Drawing Room, which was supplied by the iconic Gilded Age decorating firm Allard & Fils to White’s design, are still dazzling entertaining spaces, adding to the home’s reputation as a Gilded Age oasis. 

Built by Carrère and Hastings for Mr. and Mrs. C. Ledyard Blair and their four daughters, Blairsden was, and remains, one of America’s grandest Gilded Age country houses. Blair went to great lengths to create a true country destination, leveling hilltops, building dams, creating lakes and forests, and even installing new railroad tracks leading to Blairsden.

While the world around it has evolved into a complete suburbia with large-scale country houses having almost entirely vanished, Blairsden remains virtually unchanged.  The grand architectural bones of the house remain wonderfully intact, from the carved limestone fountains, to the deluxe lighting fixtures by the celebrated firm of E.F. Caldwell & Co., which illuminate the grand galleries and reception halls.  Only one owner separates the present owners from C. Ledyard Blair himself, and although most of the collection was sold in a series of auctions in 1949, they have accomplished a masterful job of filling the great house with the collection it deserves.    The fine and decorative arts, like those at 973 Fifth, are perfectly suited to their surroundings.


About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction, private and digital sales in 2017 that totalled £5.1 billion / $6.6 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.

Alongside regular sales online, Christie’s has a global presence in 46 countries, with 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

*Please note when quoting estimates above that other fees will apply in addition to the hammer price - see Section D of the Conditions of Sale at the back of the sale catalogue.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are reported net of applicable fees.